The internet erupted in debate about whether Shanghai, China’s largest city, has turned into a “ghost town” following a viral tweet showing empty streets.
Author Michael Yon posted photographs appearing to show an empty Shanghai on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter. He said the photos, which show desolate roads and an empty Starbucks were taken by a friend on Monday and signal “deep trouble” for the Chinese economy.
“Shanghai is a ghost town compared to what it was. It’s their financial hub. Used to have massive western presence. Today is Monday. Normal workday. It feels like a Sunday morning in Germany. Very quiet. Very little road traffic. Western restaurants used to be a real status symbol to eat in. Now they’re empty. Our freight loads out of here are half of what they used to be. China is in trouble,” Yon wrote.
He noted that these areas were “full” prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which began in China and sparked widespread lockdowns that fueled concerns of a global economic downturn as China remains a major player in the worldwide economy.
The post quickly went viral on X, being viewed more than 780,000 times and receiving more than 1,000 reposts.
Many responded to Yon’s post disputing that Shanghai is a “ghost town,” posting their own photos showing a more lively, crowded city.
One user @thisischanece posted a video showing hundreds of people walking along the Nanjing pedestrian street in Shanghai late Tuesday evening, local time. In the video, she sarcastically quipped about the city being a “ghost town” as many people continued walking in the busy area.
“Reporting from Shanghai, ghost town. It’s currently Tuesday, 7:47 p.m. I’m around, so this is the Bund area (Waitan) and then over here is the pedestrian street Nanjing pedestrian street. So not many people as you can see. I think the economy is suffering a lot,” she said.
Another X user @taro_taylor wrote that the Starbucks pictured in the original post has been closed while sharing a video showing cars driving along a busy street while many pedestrians stood on the sidewalk.
“Not all Starbucks are full as there are many other choices and the one you picked has closed down…You think Shanghai is a ghost town. Here’s a vid of a week night from 2 weeks ago…” he wrote.
Another resident named Peter Lee responded with a photograph showing a busy Italian restaurant, writing, “Wouldn’t say Shanghai is a ghost town. I took this on Sunday night at an Italian restaurant called Alimentari.”
While many residents disputed the notion that Shanghai has turned into a ghost town, economists have raised concerns about the state of the Chinese economy as it has experienced slow growth following the end of the country’s COVID-19 policies.
There have been several indicators that have sparked concerns about China’s economy including high youth unemployment, the Chinese Yuan falling to its lowest level in 16 years, and a struggling real estate sector.
Newsweek reached out to China’s International Press Center for comment via email.
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